SEATTLE–The Gates Foundation has done a lot for countless struggling individuals throughout the globe. Currently, one of their main concerns is one that could change the world and save the lives of millions: to eradicate malaria.
Malaria is prevalent in about 100 different countries. According to the 2013 Malaria Report, over 200 million cases of malaria occurred in 2012. Of those cases an estimated 627 thousand people died, 90 percent of which transpired in Sub-Saharan Africa. Further, 77 percent of deaths were among children under the age of five.
“There are 200 million cases of the illness each year, which keeps parents out of work and children from school. Household budgets can be devastated by the need to pay for medicine and transport to clinics. In the poorest places, malaria is both a cause and a consequence of poverty. It costs Africa billions of pounds a year in lost productivity and can account for 40% of public health expenditure,” stated Gates and the British Chancellor George Osborne.
Although malaria is a preventable cause of death, it tolls on human health drastically. It is a heavy social and economic burden in many developing countries, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Though the death rate from malaria in 2012 was significantly lower compared to previous years, there are still no proper treatments to sufficiently eradicate malaria. The only supportable approach to tackling the disease is by exterminating the parasite, which is only feasible with substantial global commitment and major investments.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquitos; even mild cases it can cause chills, high fever, flu-like symptoms and anemia. These symptoms are especially daunting for small children and a pregnant woman. If not treated properly and promptly, severe malaria can cause lifelong intellectual disabilities in children as well as death.
Though there are current methods in place for preventing and curing malaria, they are insufficient to achieve the complete elimination of the disease. Furthermore, the cost of upholding these interventions has reached several billion dollars annually, making it clear that a new method must be put in place.
“Eradication is the only sustainable solution to malaria,” stated Gates. “The alternative would be an endless investment in the development of new drugs and insecticides just to stay one step ahead of resistance. The world can’t afford that approach.”
The Gates Foundation believes that with sufficient global commitment, investments in research and development, new tools and delivery strategies, the goal of malaria eradication can be met.
Malaria has been eradicated from countries before, thus it can be done again. Less than a century ago malaria was prevalent across the world. By the mid-1930s it been expunged in most of Western Europe and by 1951 it was eradicated in the United States, making the eliminiation of it throughout the world seem feasible.
The Gates Foundation currently has a new multi-year malaria strategy in place. The Foundation believes that worldwide eradication can be accelerated by new drug regimens and strategies to cure the individual and diagnostic tests to ensure a sick individual has malaria as well as vaccines to prevent the disease. But the malaria parasite has begun to develop a resistance to the current insecticides and drugs, thus new drugs will have to be put in place.
As of now, the United States has committed $2 billion in grants to combat malaria and an additional $1.6 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Global Investment has jumped significantly in recent years as well, in 2000 $130 million was spent to fight malaria and in 2013 $2.7 billion was invested, transforming the fight against malaria, which continues to expand.
“Over the past 15 years, we have seen tremendous progress in reducing the burden of malaria globally – a direct result of our collective action – and we now stand in the unique position of putting an end to this disease forever,” stated Ray Chambers, who is on the Health Millennium Development Team to end Malaria.
The Gates Foundation concentrates their efforts on three main priorities:
1. Demonstrate an Accelerated Path to Elimination
2. Invest in New Interventions
3. Mobilize Support
Those three priorities have led the Foundation in the right direction. Currently, it is trying to improve the delivery of existing malaria tools, diagnostics and drugs. All the while investing in a range of new interventions that have a greater impact.
The Gates Foundation states that it will “work to ensure that malaria has a prominent place on the global agenda and garners the political support and resources needed for eventual eradication.”
– Bella Chaffey